Hello and welcome to my unique teaching experience! My name is Jill White and this will be my 10th year of teaching with Memphis City Schools. I have my BS degree in elementary education and the graduate hours for the endorsement to teach gifted students. My first 5 years of teaching was in a self-contained 3rd grade classroom. I now teach in the Division of Exceptional Children. I am married (for 10 years) and I am a mom of two children, ages 6 and 1. I have a very busy lifestyle that requires a lot of organization.
I teach in a suburb of Tennessee. Mine is not your average classroom. I teach only Gifted and Talented students in a program called CLUE (Creative Learning in a Unique Environment). It is a pull-out program, meaning that the students are in a regular classroom and they come to me twice a week for two and a half hours each class time. I do not give grades and I teach completely outside of the box.
The position I have can change from year to year. I may teach at several different schools or just one. It is all based on the student numbers and where the need lies. I have taught everything from 1st grade through 6th grade. This school year I will be teaching at one school full-time. I will have 1st grade and other grades that are not assigned until about three weeks into school year. I am at a K-4school. With my position, you set up your classroom wherever there's a space. I have taught in a regular-sized classroom, a teacher’s workroom, a closet (!), and this year I am in the Teacher’s Assistant workroom in the guidance suite. As you can understand, flexibility and organization is critical to survival!
I am a firm believer in creativity and hands-on learning in the classroom. Children need to take an active part in their education. I view myself as a facilitator to their learning. I begin by giving an interest inventory to see what my students want to learn about. I write curriculum using their ideas as much as I can. I also use parents in the classroom and members of the community. My hope is that my students walk away at the end of the school year seeing how their education carries into their community and their everyday lives. We use a variety of resources in the classroom. I think the students need the basic skills of dictionaries and encyclopedias along with the use of the Internet and computers. I love to bring in volunteers to work with the students as well and share their knowledge. We go on regional explorations as much as possible as well.
The gifted classroom requires a very different style of teaching. We are the differentiated curriculum for most of our students. My students critique their class time with me everyday before they leave me. We use hand signals and statements to evaluate our day. I focus a lot on teaching students how to sit down and look at themselves and reflect on their day. When we work in a group, we critique the group and how well each member worked in the group. At the end of a study, I give the students an opportunity to evaluate how well they liked the study. They are able to tell their favorite and least favorite activities. They have the chance to express what was difficult for them and why. They also reflect on their own behavior during the unit. I critique them as well and we conference together to discuss what we both saw and felt. Success is measured in my classroom through not only the evaluations and critiques, but with growth. I interact with my kids the entire class time. I am working with individuals that need the extra help during activities. Each student faces their own challenges and I try to help them meet their challenge head on and feel the pride of accomplishing the task. The students are for the most part, self-motivated and challenge each other. They have a competitive drive about them. Everyone, including myself, is considered a learner and a teacher in our classroom.
I feel very fortunate to have a job that I love to go to each day. I never know what the day will bring. I enjoy seeing and hearing the thought processes of my students. Teachers make such a difference in a child’s life and I feel it an honor to be a part of that! I hope that my unique teaching scenario will be beneficial to those of you who find yourselves in similar situations.